ACA Blog

Anderson Antoine
Sep 24, 2012

Personal Identity Issues

I have been counseling persons who seem to be experiencing identity crises. This situation forced me to raise questions pertaining to Erik Erikson’s and other philosophies of identity, and psychological developmental issues. One may ask oneself questions relating to the many adults, who, through certain experiences or exposures were capable of rediscovering themselves and establishing a different understanding of themselves as well as who they want to be. It seems that I have a powerful leaning towards the level of stimulation for development provided by the environment in which one develops. Let us not forget that ‘all behaviours are learnt’.



It has been said that change is constant. When people’s lives change it is highly likely that their identity will change to meet the new demands of the change that takes place in their lives. It is my pleasure to help my client to reach out and accept their individuality while at the same time making any adjustments to their lives as they see necessary am of the view that no one should be compares to any other. It is likely that any form of comparison whatsoever, may be demeaning, except that one may choose to compare one’s behaviour of the past with one’s own behaviour of the present in an attempt to improve one’s behaviour in the future.

Erik Erikson, in my view may have devoted more energy on attempting to locate a much earlier time frame for the individual’s psychological development with reference to one’s identity. Perhaps you can accept Erikson’s theory for what it is-simply a frame work, as all other theories are. I have been wondering about what really motivates human thoughts and behaviour. I am content to be provided with some form of insight.

No one is certain about whether development is genetic or environmental in nature, nor whether it occurs slowly or smoothly. Further, one argues whether early childhood experiences or later events in a person’s life are of greater significance with reference to the problem of personal identity. It would not hurt to have a conversation with the client about a bit of history regarding their claims.

One of the oldest issues in philosophy and psychology is whether either nature or nurture should hold the advantage with regards to greater influence in a person’s psychological development. There is not enough evidence to suggest that either one of these would emerge the winner. I have a strong leaning towards the ideas postulated by Plato and Descartes which point to the concept of inborn tendencies. The previously named two philosophers seem strongly oppose by John Locke who holds the ‘Tabula rasa’ theory.

I have a very strong leaning towards a contemporary view. This view seems to give everyone a chance to develop the potential they were born with through the inclusion of environmental inputs, such as diet and social stimuli. Everyone can learn new lessons of survival as they attempt to shape their identity.

‘Psychoanalytic theorists tend to focus upon events that occur in early childhood. According to Freud, much of a child's personality is completely established by the age of five. If this is indeed the case, those who have experienced deprived or abusive childhoods might never adjust or develop normally’.

In contrast to this view, researchers have found that the influence of childhood events does not necessarily have a dominating effect over behavior throughout the life span. Many people with less-than-perfect childhoods go on to develop normally into well-adjusted adults.

There is no need for everyone to develop in the same way and at the same rate of development. To outline a series of sequential stages in which skills emerge at certain points of development, seems to be begging the question. From where I stand today, Erik Erikson’s theory is asexual and does not point specifically to boys only. Its applicability is broad and covers both boys and girls.



Anderson Antoine is a counselor from Trinidad and Tobago. He lectures at the University of the Southern Caribbean, and owns the company ‘Anderson Antoine and Associates Professional Counseling Services’. At present he is deeply engaged in writing poetry.

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